A major shift in energy production is underway. Although there were already efforts to implement more green technologies for electricity generation, they’ve been greatly accelerated by recent global events. As a result, there has never been more demand for renewable energy. How can you gain an advantage in this increasingly competitive environment? A digital transformation can propel your business to new heights, making your company more sustainable.
Green Technologies: Digital Transformation and Sustainability
Renewable Energy Companies Require a Complete Digital Transformation
Because of the ever-increasing demand for renewables, companies need to adopt modern digital workflows. Companies that fail to modernize their business processes by digitizing will fall behind very quickly.
The pace of progress continues to increase. Solar panels are a prime example. Efficiency has grown at a relatively steady pace for 70 years, but the cost to build panels has dropped drastically over the last two decades. Solar panels in the 1950s could cost an outstanding $1,785 per watt; today, that figure is under $1 per watt.
As these margins get tighter, companies must become more efficient and creative to gain an edge on the competition. Going digital accomplishes exactly that. Nevertheless, saving costs is just one way that a digital transformation benefits green energy companies. Digitalization is practically a prerequisite to push green technology forward. Consider how different kinds of renewable energy thrive in digital environments:
Solar Farms Feed on Data
Solar power has incredible potential in the MENA region. With a favorable climate and abundant land to develop on, many energy experts see the Middle East and North Africa emerging as major renewable exporters in the future. However, for this vision to become a reality, companies in the region need to harvest large quantities of data from their operations to fine-tune solar panels and improve deployment. Consider how a modern solar energy producer would do so in a digital environment.
Advanced digital panels can report power production in individual cells rather than relying on the central power inverter to report the total output of the array. With data at the cell level, companies can design panels for more efficiency, more accurately measure cell fail rates, and dynamically adjust positioning to track the sun in real-time. Back in the lab, engineers can analyze data and even push commands to solar farms from afar. The result is a more efficient operation.
Wind Power Data Drives Sustainable Implementation
Wind power is an essential component of a sustainable energy future. However, implementing wind farms can be a massive challenge. Companies need to survey land to identify the best possible locations to place turbines, which requires processing large amounts of data from several sources. Trying to make these calculations on a traditional office server would take days or weeks. Cloud computing can do it much faster, but the cloud performs best when data is stored there as well.
So, going digital is essentially a prerequisite for wind farms. In addition, data pulled from turbines can help engineers improve on existing designs. This data is also vital for dealing with other electrical companies, as the grid must remain balanced. At times, state energy regulators may ask a wind farm to curtail production when there is an abundance of energy. Going digital can automate these requests and synchronize your renewables with the greater grid.
Digital Tools Create Low-Impact HydroPower
Hydropower was the first commercially viable renewable source of energy, which means that the most useful locations for hydroelectric dams have already been taken. There isn’t a lot of room for new developments in hydropower. Nevertheless, there is plenty of room to update and improve existing hydroelectric facilities. Many older plants were built with little regard for their environmental impact, while others have begun to require expensive maintenance due to age.
A new digital technique is breathing life back into hydroelectric power. It’s known as the “digital twin.” Essentially, a digital model of the same hydroelectric system is built by taking data from the real-world system and recreating its parameters. Engineers can then tinker with the digital twin by running experiments or adjusting environmental variables. Digital Twin design is making new dams more affordable and improving the performance of existing ones, all thanks to fully digital businesses and governments.
New Green Energy Tech Needs Digital Development
There are other emerging green technologies that could potentially unlock new sources of renewable power. For instance, biomass renewables aim to accelerate the natural process of carbon capture using fast-growing plants and algae. However, the models for these methods are extremely complex and require lots of processing power. In addition, scientists are constantly experimenting with new combinations of organisms to produce the best results. Since there is no clear path forward yet, more research is required.
Nevertheless, biomass already makes up 5% of United States energy production today. Clearly, there is potential for this source to take off. Finding the right formula and ideal applications will take time. With digital models and robust data collection, experiments can be run faster and processed more quickly to yield more lucrative processes.
Modern Green Energy Systems Depend on Digitalization
Regardless of the source of renewable energy, the system itself must yield data and be responsive to inputs from other sources. Renewables have immense potential to offset greenhouse gas production from fossil fuels. However, they are also very fickle. Gas, oil, and nuclear plants don’t need to wait for ideal weather conditions or be built next to the perfect river formation. Renewables, in contrast, only produce when conditions are right. This makes renewables less effective in traditional analog systems.
Traditional systems can send power in a single direction constantly. They can reliably be built around static physical infrastructure because they produce electricity at a single large location. But how do we shift production to renewable systems that are often decentralized and located across wide distances? The key is to have a digital electricity management system, one that can measure power sources and sinks and balance them on its own. This concept is known as the digital electrical grid.
A Modern Digital Grid Is Necessary for Sustainable Energy
An electrical grid is similar to a traffic grid. Because roads are paved and predictable, lights can be installed at intersections and programmed only once. But what if the number of roads in an intersection could change? Then you would need a smart light to detect traffic patterns and adjust its timings and commands accordingly. The same is true of a modern electrical grid. Countries will soon need to build dynamic grids that can adapt to changing circumstances.
Instead of transformers designed to turn one set voltage into another, we need dynamic components that can make changes instantly based on their input. As more homes become generators thanks to solar roofing and even domestic wind power, we need smart meters that can measure electricity flowing in the opposite direction. All of these devices need to be connected. So, how can your company position itself for these impending changes?
How to Transform Your Business
The key to achieving a true digital transformation is first to digitize your internal business processes using cloud-based technology. By working in the cloud, all of the data in your organization can be processed and analyzed to provide useful insights to improve your workflow. Many tasks can be automated so that you can keep pace with the fast growth of these green technologies. Consider some of the tools you may want to implement to reach these goals.
Business Intelligence Systems
A business intelligence system is a must if you hope to go fully digital. These systems operate in the cloud instead of on your local servers. Although they analyze all of your data, they only push relevant information to the right people. Your managers might need information on KPIs, while your engineers will get details about the cost and availability of components. Purchasers get estimates for orders, while salespeople get updated figures to determine pricing.
Model-Based Engineering (MBE)
MBE tools speed up delivery of products by centralizing engineering and production around a single model. This is extremely useful for everyone in the supply chain. The final model dictates the parts needed from suppliers and streamlines communication between all levels. Iterations can be revised more quickly, which is essential for manufacturers in wind and solar power, where new developments happen in mere months.
Implementing new tools can be a challenge. Working with an experienced technology enabler can make it easier. If your company is looking to digitize for the first time or you’re considering an upgrade to your existing systems, working with experienced professionals is always recommended.
Look no further than SAAB RDS for your technology needs. Contact SAAB RDS to learn more about how we can transform your company and help you stay one step ahead of the competition.